Noontime’s NFL Conference Championship Predictions

By Matt Noonan

Welcome to the conference championship weekend – are you ready for another exciting weekend of National Football League (NFL) playoff football?  

Last week, we were treated to some exciting football – I can’t say it was the cleanest football, but it was fun.

This week, we should be treated to not one, but two great matchups, so without further ado, allow me to share my predictions for the conference championships.

Enjoy the games and best of luck to everyone in the snow tomorrow!

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, January 30 at 3 p.m.): I picked the Bengals last week to beat the Tennessee Titans. I even predicted they would win their opening-round matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders. But as much as I would like to pick them again this week, I just don’t think their offensive line will be able to contain the Chiefs’ front seven. It would be a great story to see Joe Burrow in his second season leading the Bengals back to the “big game,” but I think Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will make one, two, or three extra plays to secure a spot in next month’s Super Bowl. PREDICTION: Kansas City 31, Cincinnati 26

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, January 30 at 6:30 p.m.): It’s hard to pick against the 49ers – they have a great deal of momentum on their side. And while they appear banged-up and tired, especially after two hard-fought postseason contests with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, I think it would be hard for me to pick against them this weekend. San Francisco has been playing some inspirational football, which started earlier this month when they defeated Los Angeles in their regular-season finale. PREDICTION: San Francisco 27, Los Angeles 23

Jimmy Robertson Named Monmouth University Quarterbacks Coach

Jimmy Robertson, who coached the FDU-Florham football team to seven wins last fall, has been named the Monmouth University quarterbacks coach. (PHOTO COURTESY: Sherry Saccoliti)

By Matt Noonan

Monmouth University as a new quarterbacks coach. And his name is Jimmy Robertson.

Robertson joins the Hawks for the upcoming 2022 season after leading FDU Florham to a 7-4 record in his first and only season as the head coach of the Devils. He was named the program’s head coach on February 12, 2020, after spending five seasons as the squad’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  

“The opportunity to have been (a) head football coach at FDU was a true honor,” Robertson said, via FDUDevils.com. “My love for our players, coaches and this program runs deep, and I will forever cherish being a part of the first bowl win in school history.”

Under Robertson, the Devils enjoyed one of their best seasons in program history as they matched the 1993 squad with seven wins while winning their first-ever Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) bowl against Saint Vincent College.

Robertson was named the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Coach of the Year and was joined by six of his players on the league’s end-of-season team, including Kenny Hands, a D3Football.com All-American that established a new single-season record for sacks with 13.5 for 73 yards.

In addition to coaching the Monmouth quarterbacks, Robertson will also serve as the team’s pass game coordinator — look for him to make an immediate impact on Tony Muskett, a two-time first-team All-Big South quarterback that threw for 2,651 yards and 25 touchdowns last fall.  

“Coach Robertson is a great addition to our coaching staff,” Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said, via MonmouthHawks.com. “His experience working with the quarterback position and his team as a head coach complement the strengths of our offense coaches and make him a great fit for Monmouth.”

Van Curen will serve as the team’s interim head coach, but a national search for the next leader of the Devils will begin soon.

Checking In On The D3 Football Coaching Carousel

Dan Swanstrom will be returning to the University of Pennsylvania after spending five seasons as the head coach at Ithaca College. (PHOTO COURTESY: University of Pennsylvania Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

The football coaching carousel never stops, especially in NCAA Division III.

As noted, both this morning and over the last few days by D3Football.com, three schools, including Ithaca College, will be looking for a new head coach to lead their respective program onto the gridiron this fall.

Dan Swanstrom, who guided the Bombers to 32 wins and 11 losses in five seasons, is returning to the University of Pennsylvania as the Quakers’ new offensive coordinator. His final day at Ithaca College is next Monday, January 31.

Penn head coach Ray Priore announced Swanstrom’s hiring on Monday and is excited to welcome back his former quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator that helped the Quakers share a pair of Ivy League crowns in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s great to have Dan rejoin the Penn Football Family after leading Ithaca to great success over the last years,” Priore said in a statement on Monday. “He returns with a tremendous work ethic, an incredible amount of football knowledge, and a passion for the game.”  

Swanstrom inherits a Penn offense that ranked last in the Ivy League in touchdowns (24) and points (191).

In his final season at Ithaca, the Bombers won eight of 10 contests, including five of six Liberty League (LL) matchups. Ithaca concluded its campaign with a heartbreaking defeat to SUNY Cortland in the 62nd meeting between the two schools last November.

According to D3Football.com, this year’s Cortaca Jug Game between Ithaca and SUNY Cortland will be played at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, November 12.

“I can’t put into words how special my time at Ithaca has been,” said Swanstrom, via D3Football.com. “I would like to thank the players, coaches, and fans for the cherished experiences and the meaningful relationships.”

Swanstrom isn’t the only one making a transition from Division III to Division I as it was announced yesterday that Chris Wilkerson, who guided the University of Chicago for the last nine seasons, has been named the new head coach at Eastern Illinois University.

Wilkerson, who is an Eastern Illinois alum, guided the Maroons to an 8-2 record last fall, including a 7-2 mark in the Midwest Conference. UChicago’s offense shattered numerous single-season records while halfback Nicholas D’Ambrose placed second in the nation with a school record of 1,714 rushing yards.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the head football coach at UChicago for the past nine seasons,” said Wilkerson, via athletics.uchicago.edu. “I want to thank all the players and coaches for their commitment and passion for Maroon football.”

North Central will also have a new head coach — the school’s athletic director Jim Miller recently announced Brad Spencer will be taking over for Jeff Thorne, who recently accepted the offensive coordinator role with Western Michigan.

Thorne will reunite with Western Michigan coach Tim Lester as the two coached together at North Central under Jeff’s father John Thorne.

As the head coach of North Central, Jeff Thorne guided the Cardinals to the school’s first-ever championship in 2019. They fell short of winning their second title last month against the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.  

Other coaching changes/notes:

Getting To Know Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos)

Nathaniel Hackett, who oversaw the Green Bay Packers offense for the last three seasons, has been named the head coach of the Denver Broncos. (PHOTO COURTESY: Green Bay Packers)

By NoontimeSports.com

The Denver Broncos have a new head coach. And his name is Nathaniel Hackett.

According to various reports, Hackett, who was previously the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, will become the new coach of the Broncos — he takes over for Vic Fangio, who guided the Orange and Blue for the last three seasons.

Hackett is the first coordinator or assistant coach to fill one of the National Football League’s (NFL) head coaching vacancies — others will be named over the next few days and weeks — but before he inks his name on a new contract, let’s learn about the new leader of the Broncos.

  • Nathaniel is the son of Paul Hackett, a former professional and collegiate football coach that was born in Burlington, Vermont. Paul held numerous coordinator or assistant roles in the NFL but was a head coach twice for the University of Pittsburgh and University of Southern California.

  • Hackett played football at the University of California, Davis. He earned the George Belenis Award as a co-scout team player of the year in 1998 with Trae Milton before earning the Bob Foster Aggie Pride Award in 2002.  
      
  • His coaching career began in 2003 as the UC Davis assistant linebacker’s coach before earning additional roles with Stanford University and Syracuse University. He spent two years at Stanford – he was a specialist/recruiting coordinator in 2005.

  • In 2006, Hackett made his NFL debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their offensive quality control coach before accepting the same duties in 2008 and 2009 with the Buffalo Bills.

  • Most recently, he was spotted on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars as both their quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator before joining Matt LaFleur in Green Bay to oversee the offense the last three seasons.  

Our “Getting to Know” series, a first-ever in the history of Noontime Sports, will introduce our football fans and friends to new head coaches in the NFL. Be on the lookout for future posts once more teams announce their next coach for the upcoming 2022 season.

Andrae Murphy Named Dean College’s Football Coach

Andrae Murphy, who coached the defensive backs at Columbia University last season, was named the Dead College football coach on Friday. (PHOTO COURTESY: Dean College Athletics & Columbia University Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

Dean College has a new football coach for the upcoming 2022 NCAA Division III season.

Andrae Murphy, who graduated from the Franklin, Massachusetts institute in 2007, was named the new coach of the program earlier today. He takes over a Bulldogs program that was previously coached by Steve Tirrell, who announced his resignation from the program shortly after the 2021 season concluded.

“It’s an honor to be named the head coach of Dean College,” said Murphy, via DeanBulldogs.com. “I’d like to thank Present (Paula) Rooney and (Dean College’s Director of Athletics) George Martin for giving e such an incredible opportunity to return home and lead this remarkable group of student-athletes. I owe so much to Dean College and I am eternally grateful to serve the Dean Community in this capacity.”

Murphy inherits a Bulldogs squad that finished 2-8 last fall, including 1-5 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC). In 2019, the Bulldogs captured their first-ever ECFC crown with a 4-1 conference record and represented the league in the New England Bowl against Endicott College.

Prior to being named the new head coach of Dean College, Murphy coached for a slew of collegiate and high school programs, including Columbia University where he spent four of the last five seasons overseeing the defensive backs.